Tag Archives: Irving Pizza

In the Zone: Pizza Zone (“P’Zone”)

Do you remember the Pizza Hut P’zone? I don’t: I’ve never had one. I do remember an old friend telling me the story of how she made out with some dude who offered to buy her a P’zone* (and who reneged on his promise: tsk!).

(source)

I share this story 1) because it’s funny; and 2) because P’zone is going to be my new term for the slothful mood I fall into about once a week. Oh, jesus: Thursday was such a P’zone day. I woke up well before my alarm went off (hours before? Hard to say), haunted by dreams of getting edged out of the bathroom and being late to work. Despite a fleeting headache, I was hella productive at the office, but came home feeling wiped — Wednesday’s late-night spaghetti and Jameson adventures, coupled with those mundane nightmares, resulted in sub par sleep. I did what I had to do. I changed into comfypants, headed to Sabina’s, and ate the most Irving Pizza. OK, and drank wine and watched my first-ever episode of “Jersey Shore.” (I’m not sure how I feel about this viewing decision; I rather liked the rock I was living under before I ever heard Snooki’s voice. Sadly, what’s done cannot be undone.)

My relationship with Irving Pizza is as contentious as it is longstanding. Before I’d tried Pi (or Little Star, or Arizmendi), I claimed Irving as my favorite pie in the city. The crust is thick — but not too thick — and doughy enough to satisfy any carb-lover’s cravings. Irving’s toppings are solid: not gourmet, by any stretch, but the jalapenos sear the roof of my mouth, and the Pizza Master uses a heavy hand when portioning pineapple. Also, the sauce: the sauce is the boss, nimbly treading the line between saccharine and acidic. Yep: it’s safe to say that the sauce is Irving’s most finely crafted component.

What’s not to love? The service. Irving’s customer service leaves so much to be desired. When I moved here, nearly two years ago, delivery was consistent, if not exactly quick. (Gone are the days of “3o minutes or less.”) Delivery times grew steadily longer; I, being the assertive lady that I am, would call Irving for status updates.

“Oh, it’s on its way,” the cashier would assure me. Really? I wondered. Like, where on its way? Ten or twenty (or thirty) minutes later, the delivery dude would arrive, hella late and frustratingly un-sheepish.

Irving pizza is cunning, though, wooing me back with its gooey cheese and its crisp-exteriored jalapeno poppers. Despite the inconsistent service, I just couldn’t quit Irving, so ingrained in my routine it had become. Which leads us to the subject at hand: pizza traditions.

In keeping with my age, country of origin, year of birth, SES, and so forth, pizza has played a major role in my culinary history. My first pizza memory is of my parents’ homemade pie; weekends, my mom would make a batch of dough, letting it rise in the orange Pyrex bowl, draped gently with a clean towel. She made her own sauce, too, wilting onions in olive oil, adding minced garlic and her secret spice blend that, to this day, I’ve never faithfully replicated. In a nod to economic housekeeping, we shredded our own mozzarella from giant bricks; Ali and I, charged with this task, would sneak handfuls as we worked. My parents topped their ‘za with Italian sausage (gently browned) and green peppers; I fancied nothing more than cheese, or sometimes cheese and mushrooms. The taste of fennel revolted me then: it was too bitter, too strong. It disrupted the soothingly familiar flavor combination.

Frozen and delivery pizzas were rare in my childhood house (the latter more so than the former). The Red Baron made the occasional appearance, as did DiGiorno (oh, mid-90s!). If we did order pizza, we’d nearly always pick it up.

Chanticlear Pizza is, without a doubt, the pizza of my youth. A local chain that specialized in wafer-thin pies the size of manhole covers, Chanticlear’s nearest outpost was in a strip mall a few miles from our house. The crust was really marginal — too crispy for my liking, too sodden with sauce — and the cheese was unremarkable (gluey, paste-tasting). What I did love was Chanticlear’s tendency to cut their pies into tiny squares: perfect for snacking on the next day.For years, Chanticlear had an ingenious rewards program. Consumers were instructed to save the small portion of each pizza box known as the “Chanti-tab.” After collecting 15 tabs, you earned a free pizza — sweet, eh? I hated the kitchen drawer, already stuffed with dish cloths, rubber bands, Box Tops for Education, and 70s-hued kitchen implements, where my mom stashed the tabs. The Chanti-tab program lasted until recently, when Chanitclear, aware that it was whittling its profit margins, discontinued it. Which is a shame: I think we still have tabs in that kitchen drawer.

***

I’ve spent quality time developing my own pizza traditions. Like my parents, I make my own pizza. (I buy pre-shredded mozz, though: sorry, mom!) Nothing — nothing — beats homemade pizza.

Irving is synonymous with ritual relaxation; its associations are inextricably linked to sweatpants, cheap beer, and time spent on the couch.

Of course, no Irving experience is complete without an appetizer sampler, which includes chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, steak fries, and poppers. You might argue that fried food is hard to fuck up (and that my praise for the platter is rooted purely in ideology), but I’d tell you you’re wrong. Fried food is easy to fuck up; as a former grill cook, I’ve made and sampled far more soggy/burned/refried fries than any person should have to sample. Irving’s steak fries are a thing of beauty: consistent in size, pale gold in color, their exteriors are crisp and their interiors are pillowy. The poppers, though, are the star of the platter. Irving doesn’t skimp on the cream cheese (generic, no doubt, but decadent nonetheless), and the breading offers the correct level of crunch (smack dab between soggy and eyetooth-shattering).

Flavorwise, Irving pizza may be solidly middle-of-the-pack, but symbolically, it’s king.

***

*This friend was in college at the time, and drunk. She’s not the sort who normally swaps spit for fast-food, OK?

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27 is the Loveliest Number

I hadn’t thought so until recently, but it’s confirmed: 27 is the noblest of ages. (!).

Thursday was my birthday. I’m not trying to sound like a jerk, but I wasn’t extraordinarily stoked for this b-day: I wouldn’t be gaining any new privileges (legal or otherwise), I wouldn’t be hitting any chronological milestones, and I hadn’t had the foresight to take the day off work.

That’s not to say I was unstoked — I look forward to any instance of frosting-eating. I’m just saying that this birthday didn’t produce the level of anticipation as, say, my 21st birthday, or my 25th.

Guess what? This birthday (birthday weekend, as it were) was totally awesome. Here’s a breakdown of the highlights:

1) Office Pizza Party. My sis and coworkers (NDW, Anne, Stephanie, Brent, and Stephen) joined forces to throw me a lunchtime pizza party! The pizza was from Irving, of course; of course, Sys ordered my favorite combo: half pepperoni, half jalapeno + pineapple. (Note: people were seriously impressed by the jalapeno/pineapple combo. And I was like, “Consider this your formal introduction to the Queen of Pizzas.” There’s a reason I eat this pie like, once a week.)

The party didn’t stop with the ‘za, though: my pals also got a delicious cake (chocolate with white icing and choco frosting between the layers), which they adorned with a yellow-eyed chocolate bunny. (How nice that my birthday fell shortly after Easter, yes?) The cake decorator, in a burst of ingenuity, frosted my initials on a clear piece of plastic that was placed atop the cake. Why the decorator did this, no one knows, but this detail amused us all.

And Tampico: let us not forget Tampico! Stephanie brought back fond childhood memories with her purchase of bright pink punch. The taste is hard to describe, but I’ll liken it to the nectar you put in hummingbird feeders. That shit is SWEET.

A giant THANK YOU to my pals for throwing me such an awesome and sugary fete: you guys are the best!(!!)

Ti Couz's take on the shandy: it was as refreshing as it looks.

2) Dinner at Bar Jules. The Garky Girls are bad at keeping secrets. It’s impossible for us not to tell each other what we’ve gotten each other for Christmas (or birthdays, or Halloween, &c). We can’t hide our sadness or our exuberance. It’s cool: we’ve learned to cope by honing our faux-surprise skills. Hook, unlike us, is the master of keeping secrets, and he kept the location of my b-day dinner under wraps until half an hour before our reservation. That takes some skill.

Neither of us had been to Bar Jules; both of us have been itching to try it. Like so many restaurants in the city, Bar makes use of local, seasonal ingredients. Unlike its siblings, Bar structures its menu (which changes daily) around that morning’s market offerings. Each day, the menu is rewritten, and that evening’s guests can once again be surprised.

What caught my eye was the lamb chops, served with a gratin of potato, leek, and escarole. I’d actually had a steak hankering, but lamb sounded pretty good, too. Hook ordered a salad of little gem lettuces, radishes, feta, and dressing, followed by striped bass (salted; stuffed with fennel and lemon before being cooked) served with beets and the daintiest cucumbers of all time. Predictably (but no less laudably), our food was delicious. Served medium-rare, the chops were nearly identical in symmetry and pinkness; the lamb had a rich flavor, complemented by the wine I’d selected (Pino Nero, if you must know). The real star, though, was the gratin: those fingerling potatoes (more like fingernail potatoes, so tiny they were) were tender. The leeks added depth of flavor, and the breadcrumbs lent necessary crunch to an otherwise soft dish.

Hook was keen on his choices, as well. Our one complaint (aside from the fact that we’d evidently booked a res during geriatric dinner) was the limited menu. I understand Bar Jules’ desire to serve only items at the height of freshness; still, a beef option (that’s not steak tartare) would have been nice. I was craving steak, yo. Lamb is good, but it’s not steak. Capish?

Whether we’ll return to Bar Jules is undecided. Given the short menu and the plenitude of other great eateries, we might pass. Then again, we’ve been known to give plenty of places a second chance, deserved or otherwise. Time will tell! In all cases, time will tell.

Birthday portrait! Note the budding sunburn.

3) Surprise Picnic at Dolores Park! If you thought the birthday festivities ended when the sun set on the 28th, you thought wrong. Hook had planned a supersecret surprise picnic.

After brunch at Ti Couz (arranged by Sabina @ Hook’s request, so as not to arouse suspicion), H. suggested that we stroll to the park.

“Well…” I said. “I don’t know. I have some stuff to do.”

“It’s a beautiful day,” he countered. “We don’t have to stay very long.”

I knew something was up. I caved, and gladly. There, in our typical spot on the hill, were my pals, snacks and Tecate in tow. Acknowledging my love of frosting, Hook had ordered three varieties of Bi-Rite cupcakes: chocolate with mint frosting; banana with peanut brittle frosting, which was topped with crushed peanuts; and chocolate with buttercream frosting blobs (themselves encased in a thinner layer of chocofrosting).

Until Saturday, I’d only had Bi-Rite’s ice cream (HOME RUN). Rest assured, I’ll return for the ‘cakes. Heavy on the icing, the cupcakes were moist, rich, and of moderate denseness — I like my cake with a denser crumb, to be sure, but these weren’t slouchy. To the sadness of all gathered, the frosting began to melt in the intense afternoon heat,* rivulets of buttery sugar easing off the cakes’ domed tops.

Left to right: mint, banana, and plain ol' chocolate. Eff yeah.

Don’t even worry, though: we solved that problem. We solved it good. By the time the heat had broken, only two or three of the original two-dozen cupcakes remained. I hope that those remainders nourished some worthy raccoon (or, more likely, rat). I hope that glorious frosting fueled some dog’s pursuit of a frisbee. At the very least, I hope that frosting did not melt and puddle, only to coagulate at the bottom of the cardboard box.

And that, friends, was my birthday weekend. Pretty damn enjoyable, if I do say so myself. I was left with a wicked bad sunburn (thanks, strapless dress + inadequate application of sunscreen!) and a moderate case of heat exhaustion, but those were a small price to pay for such buttery, friend-filled revelry. I don’t know how 27 will shape up, but I hope last weekend was a predictor of things to come.

***

*Which is not a phrase you’ll usually see associated with San Francisco, ever.

Postscript: Double Whammy!

Quickly, two tidbits:

1) Hook had a surprise for me when I got home from work: the new edition of Will Write For Food (autographed). Hells yeah! I’ll be reading the blogging chapter tonight or tomorrow night, depending on how planz shake out, and will then relay relevant thoughts to you, dear reader.

Reiteration: Hook is the best(!!!)

2) Hook presented me with another, no less thoughtful surprise: dinner from Irving Pizza. Those who know me know my boundless love for Irving’s pie + jalapeno poppers, particularly the latter. (Note: if you claim to dislike jalapeno poppers, you probably have no soul.)  I’ve got an Irving-specific post in the works, have no fear, but I wanted to include this delicious tidbit in my postscript to yesterday’s post and get you all thinking about the holiness that is a hand-tossed pie, half garlic and pepperoni, half jalapeno and pineapple, sauce tangy and crust browned and fragrant. Thinking caps on!